Hidden cost of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq 'is twice what Bush claims'

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The Independent US

The total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to be $1.6 trillion (£770bn) – double the amount President George Bush says it will cost.

A report entitled The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War says the true cost of the wars is almost double the $804bn the White House has requested for military operations in 2008.

The report, prepared by Democrats in Congress, says an average American family of four has already paid more than $20,000 to fund the President's military adventures.

The Democratic majority in Congress will this week make another – probably doomed – attempt to force Mr Bush to withdraw US troops from Iraq, before providing him with the $50bn he has requested to keep the war going.

Since taking the majority last year, the Democrats have forced 40 votes on bills limiting President Bush's war policy. Not one has passed in the House and the Senate, even though both are run by Democrats.

The only war legislation that has been passed by this Congress has handed President Bush precisely what he wants: unrestricted access to money to continue the wars.

Despite his rock-bottom approval rating, President Bush remains in charge when it comes to fighting wars. The Democrats are divided among themselves, unsure whether to cut and run or fund the troops. Constant failure by the Democrats to force change in Iraq has reinforced the party's political weakness. That has given Republican candidates hope in the 2008 election campaign.

Despite the overwhelming popular opposition to the war in Iraq, the number of American families directly affected through death or injury remains limited. Now the Democrats are trying to show that wars are placing a huge burden on families not directly affected by the fighting.

Yesterday's report on the cost of the wars was prepared by Democrats in Congress. It includes "hidden costs" – higher oil prices, the treatment of the war wounded and interest on monies borrowed to fund both wars. "This report makes crystal clear is that the cost to our country in lives lost and dollars spent is tragically unacceptable," said Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.

The report says: "The full economic costs of the war to the American taxpayers and the overall US economy go well beyond even the immense federal budget costs already reported." It says the war is diverting billions of dollars away from "productive investment" in the US. Economic disruption caused by reservists being taken away from their jobs is costing employers up to $2bn.

Both conflicts are expected to cost $3.5trn between 2003 and 2017 – a burden of $46,400 for an average American family.

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